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Senators slam economic managers opposing proposed free tuition bill
Philippines: Authors of the bill granting tuition-free education in all state universities and colleges (SUCs) on Wednesday slammed President Rodrigo Duterte’s economic managers for opposing the proposal.
Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero, chairman of the Senate education committee, said the budget needed to fund the proposal is only P14 billion, not P100 billion as Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno claimed.
“Free tuition and other fees in SUCs costs only P14 billion, which is only 0.3 percent of the proposed 2018 GAA,” Escudero said in a text message, citing the proposed P3.767- trillion General Appropriations Act.
Ratified by the Senate and the House of Representatives, the proposal also seeks free tuition in local universities and colleges (LUCs) and technical and vocational institutions (TVI) recognized by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
Covering the LUCs and TESDA TVIs would require an additional of P6-billion allocation, Escudero said. Still, he said, that would mean a total of P20 billion or 0.5 percent of the proposed 2018 budget.
“Given that we plan to spend P1.1 trillion on infrastructure capital outlay in the administration's ‘Build, Build, Build’ program, it's a small investment in our human capital resource that will go a long way and which should be part of such a ‘Build’ campaign ... building on our human capital resources and investing in our people,” he said.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, a co-author of the bill, said Diokno’s P100-billion figure was “inaccurate and misleading.”
“The numbers being floated by DBM have no basis,” Gatchalian said in a separate text message.
The DBM’s concern can be addressed by creating a budget insertion, which would likely get the support of the majority of senators, the senator said.
"I have said it time and time again: a college education is one of the strongest weapons a person can wield in the fight against the inter-generational evil of poverty,” Gatchalian said.
“I urge the Duterte administration to take this maxim to heart by devoting more resources to expanding access to educational opportunities at the tertiary level," he added.
For his part, Senator JV Ejercito said Duterte’s economic managers should treat education as “investment” rather than expense.
“If the government can spend P70-bllion a year for Conditional Cash Transfer, which is a dole out, why can't we spend ... for higher education? I would rather invest for higher education since this is the best way out of poverty and not through dole outs,” Ejercito said in another statement.
The proposed measure was submitted for Duterte’s signature on July 5. It will lapse into law on August 5 if the President fails to act on it.
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